Russia launches an uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft on a rescue mission to help in the return of the two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut whose trip back to Earth was hampered.
According to reports the trip caused hindrance after the original space vehicle was damaged by a mini meteorite while being parked at the International Space Station (ISS).
The successful blast operation of the Soyuz MS-23 vessel from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday was hinted at by ISS partner NASA.
Meanwhile, though the MS-23 is scheduled to dock with the ISS early on Sunday morning as per the Moscow time, it is not supposed to bring back Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopyev, and US astronaut Frank Rubio home until later this year.
The three arrived at the ISS in September last year onboarding the MS-22 spacecraft and were originally supposed to stay about six months until the end of March. But the schedule was disturbed with MS-22 leakage coolant in December following an apparent micro-meteorite puncturing an external radiator.
The same thing repeated earlier this month, this time on a docked Russian cargo ship and the camera views further showed a small hole in each spacecraft.
The MS-23, which took off on Friday, was initially scheduled to launch in mid-March and was to support the replacement crew on board MS-23, the two Russians and the US crew member. But now the crew will continue working at the ISS until September, according to the officials as with no coolant it was too risky to bring the three back in their damaged Soyuz MS-22 next month as planned earlier.
In an official statement, NASA has hinted the damaged Soyuz MS-22 is scheduled to undock from the ISS in late March and return to Earth “for an uncrewed parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan, and post-flight analysis by Roscosmos”, Russian space agency.